Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim Tour Itinerary
Welcome to Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim National Park Tour! We’re thrilled that you’ve chosen us to guide you through this bucket-list national park adventure!
At over 1.2 million acres spanning 1,904 square miles, the Grand Canyon’s South Rim is the fifth largest National Park in the United States. Naturally, there’s a lot to see and do! We here at Shaka Guide suggest carving out at least two days in the park to be able to see all of the “must-see” viewpoints, do the “must-do” activities, hike the “must-hike” trails–you get the point.
But we also believe that this is your adventure; we’re just along for the ride! We’ve broken down our Grand Canyon South Rim tour into one, two, and three day suggested itineraries based on the places we think you’ll enjoy the most, but the Grand Canyon can be a unique experience for everyone! Figure out what works for you. Just don’t forget to let us know how it was!
One Day At The Grand Canyon
Shaka Guide tours give you the freedom to experience the Grand Canyon when and how you want, with three starting points and forward and reverse content. For the sake of this itinerary, we’ll assume you’ll be setting off on your journey from Flagstaff, Arizona.
Once you reach the park, you’ll have the option to start at Mather Point/ Grand Canyon Village OR Desert View Drive. In this sample itinerary, we’ll start at Mather Point and you’ll visit Desert View Drive later in the day.
Now, this tour packs A LOT in. Although you can do it in one day, we highly recommend you break it up. Check out our two and three-day itineraries here, which is also where you’ll find information on the popular Hermit’s Road. But, if you are embarking on a one-day journey, here’s what your tour with Shaka Guide will look like.
1.Tour Start in Flagstaff
Flagstaff, Image from Canva.
Set out with the rising sun (or before!) to make the most of your all-day Grand Canyon adventure. Pass through Ponderosa Pine Forests as you make your way to the Rim of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
2. Grand Canyon Welcome Sign
Nearly there! Pull over to take a quick selfie to commemorate the start of your awesome adventure!
3. See the Sunrise at Mather Point
Up to 1 hour
Marther Point, Image from Canva.
There are many benefits in getting to the Grand Canyon early, but seeing the sunrise over Mather Point might just be the best. Park in the lot (there should be plenty of spaces), and walk over to Mather Point for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. It gets chilly, even in the summertime, so be sure to bring a warm jacket.
Pro Tip! Grab breakfast at Bright Angel Cafe
Up to 1 hour
Head over to the Plaza for a breakfast sandwich and a hot cup of coffee so that you can fuel up for the day ahead!
4. Rim Trail to Yavapai Geology Museum
1 hour to 2 hours
Rim Trail to Yavapai, Image from Canva
After drinking in the beauty of Mather Point, walk less than a mile (0.7 mi/1.1 km, to be exact) along the flat, paved Rim Trail to the Yavapai Geology Museum. Here you’ll learn more about the geology of the Grand Canyon through interpretive panels and a topographical relief map of the entire canyon. The museum used to be the Yavapai Observation Station, so it offers some of the best panoramic views you’ll see all day. Be sure to stop by the gift shop, too!
5. Hike the Rim Trail to the Grand Canyon Village
1 hour-2 hours
Continue following the paved Rim Trail for another mile and a half, and you’ll end up right in front of the historic El Tovar hotel in the heart of the historic Grand Canyon Village! Be sure to stop and drink in the breathtaking views of the Canyon along the way.
Tip: At the end of the village is where you’ll board your shuttle for Hermit Road. This scenic drive is a must-see, but is also very time-consuming. Expect it to take most of a day to explore, especially if it’s crowded. We’ve therefore included it as part of our two and three-day itineraries. Get all the details here.
6. The Grand Canyon Village
Up to 4 hours
Adrian Grey, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Grand Canyon Village was the first spot at the South Rim to offer tourist accommodations (and you’ll learn all about it on Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim tour!). Today, there’s over 120 years of history to explore at the Village. Take some time to explore the historical buildings and Native artwork, shop for souvenirs and grab a bite to eat at iconic restaurants like Fred Harvey Burger diner!
Here are some of the stops on our tour (stops 7-15)!
7. Verkamp’s Visitor Center
A visitor center, curio shop, and family home that’s been in the park for over a century.
8. Hopi House
Hopi House, Image from Canva
Commisioned by the Fred Harvey Company in 1904, Mary Colter built this "Indian Arts Building" in the style of a 1,000 year-old Native American Pueblo village dwelling. These days it houses local Native American art and gift shop
9. El Tovar Hotel
Take a gander at the first luxury hotel built on the South Rim in 1905. No two rooms are the same in this beautiful historic hotel.
10. Train Depot
Grand Canyon National Park, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Beore the time of automobiles, the trains were the life blood of the canyon, bringing in tourists and siupplies. Check out the original log depot with signs and memorabilia to get a feel for the train depot’s heyday.
11. Kolb Studio
The original photography studio of Emery and Ellsworth Kolb is now an art gallery, bookstore and curio shop
12. Lookout Studio
Lookout Studio, Image from Canva
Mary Colter designed the Lookout Studio in 1914 as a refuge for tourists and artists to six, relax, gaze out at the beauty of the canyon. Today tourists can still do just that, but now there is an added bonus of a gift shop!
13. Bright Angel Lodge
Built in 1935 as a "moderately priced" alternative the luxury El Tovar, Bright Angel Lodge offers historic rooms, cozy cabins, two restaurants, a gift shop, and instant access to the Aouth Rim
14. Maswick Lodge
Jared from Clermont, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Maswik Lodge was the Canyon's first "motor lodge" in 1927. Today it offers 280 affordable rooms in the heart of the Grand Canyon Village. Be sure to pick up some yummy fudge from the gift shop!
15. Mule Barn
The canyon’s other early essential transport, mules have been part of the Grand Canyon experience for as long as there have been tourists, Even if you don’t have a ride scheduled, walking by and seeing them up close is a worthwhile experience.
16. Desert View Drive
Up to 3 hours
Grand Canyon National Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
There are even more surprising viewpoints (and more!) down the 26-mile Desert View Drive! Here are some of the stops on our tour!
17. Pipe Creek Vista
The first of many viewpoints on our scenic Desert View Drive.
18. Yaki Point/South Kaibab Trail (shuttle required - don’t worry, it will still work on the tour)
Yaki Point, image from Canva.
One of our favorite viewpoints along Desert view and the starting point for the South Kaibab Trail. Check out our Hiking Guide for more info.
19. Duck on a Rock Viewpoint
A Kaibab limestone formation that has, according to some, eroded into the shape of a duck.
20. Twin Overlooks
Two quick pullovers for taking in more great canyon views. Twice the sights? Twice as nice.
21. Grandview Point
Grandview Point, Image from Canva
Viewpoint along Desert View Drive that once housed the Grandview Hotel, Pete Berry's mining enterprise. From here, you can hear the Hance Rapids below.
22. Grandview Lookout Tower
Fire lookout tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. It is approximately 10 miles east of the Tusayan Ranger District Office and houses an observation deck and informational signage.
23. Buggeln Picnic Area
BuggeIn Picnic Sign, Image from Canva
Enjoy a picnic lunch in the shady ponderosa pine forest while stealing glances of the canyon through the trees.
24. Moran Point
The point named for famed nature artist Thomas Moran, Moran Point is an excellent place to see the vibrant colors of the Grand Canyon Supergroup and basement rocks like Vishnu Shist.
25. Tusayan Ruin
Tusayan Ruin, Image from Canva
Archeological site and interpretive museum of ancient Puebloan village circo 1100 AD.
26. Lipan Point
At 7,360 feet above sea level, Lipan Poin offers some of the most expansive and clear views of the entire Canyon.
27. Navajo Point
Navajo Point, Image from Canva
Navajo Point offers a great view of Desert View Watchtower, as well as panoramic vistas to the west and a view north up the Colorado River.
28. Desert View Watchtower
Up to 1 hour
One glance at the Desert View Watchtower and you’ll have a renewed appreciation for architect Mary Colter and her legendary designs. The Watchtower itself can be toured; there are informational exhibits, a small gift shop and a viewing area on the ground floor. The tower is occasionally open for tours and exploration as well, and it houses a large collection of Hopi and Navajo art. When you’re through, stop at the memorial plaque for the 1956 TWA crash site. Head over to the gift shop to browse actual art and pottery from local artists, and finish the afternoon off with a cone from the ice cream parlor.
29. Little Colorado River Gorge Overlook
Up to 1 hour
Don’t skip this one! The Little Colorado River Gorge Overlooks are part of the Navajo Nation, so you may be asked for a small donation that goes directly to the Navajo tribe. Before hitting the short, mostly flat .8 mile trail to the gorge overlook, stop by the Navajo vending stalls! You won’t find friendlier artisans or more unique souvenirs. Trust us!
Ready to explore the Grand Canyon's South Rim with Shaka Guide? Check our everything you need to know before you go here!